An open letter to Chinese citizens and friends of China at home and abroad from parliamentarians, academics, advocates and policy leaders.

The current global crisis has been caused by the regime so many of you have been tolerating or supporting for decades.

On 2 April 2020, a group of one hundred Chinese establishment scholars wrote an open letter decrying the “many critical voices politicising the COVID-19 pandemic”. They stated that “(at) this stage of the pandemic, the exact source and origin of COVID-19 remain undetermined, but these questions are unimportant and finger pointing is demeaning and hurtful to everyone”. They also argued against what they alleged is the politicising of the epidemic.

The open letter exemplifies what the independent intellectual Professor Xu Zhangrun has called the “ridiculous ‘Red Culture’ and the nauseating adulation that the system heaps on itself via shameless pro-Party hacks who chirrup hosannahs at every turn”.

Professor Xu—now under house arrest—has called on his compatriots to stop their uncritical support for the Chinese Communist Party (CCP), and instead to “rage against this injustice; let your lives burn with a flame of decency; break through the stultifying darkness and welcome the dawn”.

While the exact source and spread of the virus are not clear yet the question of origin is highly important, for the people of China and for all humankind: only by understanding how this global disaster could emerge we can prevent it from happening again.

The roots of the pandemic are in a cover-up by CCP authorities in Wuhan, Hubei province. Under the influence of the CCP the World Health Organisation first downplayed the pandemic. Taiwanese health officials also allege that they ignored their alerts of human-to-human transmission in late December. Under pressure from the CCP, democratic Taiwan—which has coped with the pandemic in exemplary fashion—is excluded from the WHO.

We should never forget that China’s Chernobyl moment was a self-inflicted wound. The CCP silenced Chinese doctors who wanted to warn other health professionals during the early stage of the outbreak: Dr Ai Fen can no longer appear in public after accepting a domestic media interview; her colleague Dr Li Wenliang died while fighting the virus in Wuhan. On his deathbed Dr Li famously said that “a healthy society shouldn’t have only one voice”.

The Chinese entrepreneur Ren Zhiqiang wrote that “without a media representing the interests of the people by publishing the actual facts, the people’s lives are being ravaged by both the virus and the major illness of the system.” He disappeared on March 12.

The courageous citizen journalists Chen Qiushi, Fang Bin and Li Zehua, who tried to report freely about the situation in Wuhan, now are also missing.

Mainland China’s political malaise goes beyond the leadership failure of Xi Jinping. In a recent video message a young student called Zhang Wenbin reflected on his evolution from an uncritical CCP supporter to a critical citizen with a conscience: “Since I scaled the Great Firewall, I gradually came to the realization that the Chinese Communist Party has extended its dragon claws into every corner of the world, including collective farming [1950s], the Cultural Revolution [1966-1976], the Great Famine [1958-1961], the One-Child Policy, the Tiananmen massacre [1989], as well as the persecution of the Falun Gong [spiritual movement], and the peoples of Tibet, Hong Kong and Xinjiang…Yet everyone continues to turn a blind eye, singing the party’s praises. I just can’t bear it”. Zhang disappeared shortly after recording his message. His friends fear he will face interrogation and torture by the secret police.

The global pandemic forces us all to confront an inconvenient truth: by politicizing all aspects of life including people’s health, continued autocratic one-party rule in the People’s Republic of China has endangered everyone. Rather than trusting the CCP’s intentions and accepting establishment academics’ uncritical approval of the party-state’s policies, we should pay greater attention to the voices of what can be termed ‘unofficial’ China. These independent-minded academics, doctors, entrepreneurs, citizen journalists, public interest lawyers and young students no longer accept the CCP’s rule by fear. Neither should you.

As an international group of public figures, security policy analysts and China watchers we stand in solidarity with courageous and conscientious Chinese citizens including Xu Zhangrun, Ai Fen, Li Wenliang, Ren Zhiqiang, Chen Qiushi, Fang Bin, Li Zehua, Xu Zhiyong, and Zhang Wenbin, just to name a few of the real heroes and martyrs who risk their life and liberty for a free and open China. Their individual voices are already forming a chorus. They demand nothing less than a critical evaluation of the impact of CCP policies on the lives of Chinese citizens and citizens around the world. We urge you to join them.

Signed, in alphabetical order:

  • Judith Abitan, Executive Director of the Raoul Wallenberg Centre for Human Rights, and a Human Rights Advocate
  • Mantas Adomėnas MP, Parliament of Lithuania
  • Yoko Alender MP, Parliament of Estonia
  • Lord Alton of Liverpool, House of Lords, United Kingdom
  • Lord Andrew Adonis, House of Lords, United Kingdom
  • Dibyesh Anand, University of Westminster
  • Matteo Angioli, Global Committee for the Rule of Law “Marco Pannella”
  • Nathan Attrill, Australian National University
  • Rt Hon Norman Baker, Former Home Affairs minister, UK government
  • Geremie R. Barmé, Historian, Professor Emeritus, The Australian National University
  • Bastiaan Belder, Historian, Rapporteur European Parliament on EU-China relations 2004-2019
  • Stephen Blank, Senior Fellow,
  • Anne-Marie Brady, Global Fellow, Kissinger Institute on China and the US, Wilson Center, USA; Professor in Political Science and International Relations, University Canterbury, NZ
  • Charles Burton, Macdonald-Laurier Institute and European Values Center for Security Policy
  • Jean-Pierre Cabestan, Professor, Hong Kong Baptist University
  • William A. Callahan, Professor of International Relations, London School of Economics
  • Kevin Carrico, Monash University
  • Duanjie Chen, Macdonald-Laurier Institute
  • Jerome A. Cohen, Founding Director, US-Asia Law Institute, New York University
  • J Michael Cole, University of Nottingham and Senior fellow, Macdonald-Laurier Institute, Ottawa, Canada
  • Damian Collins MP, House of Commons, United Kingdom
  • Stephane Corcuffe, University of Lyon
  • Irwin Cotler, Chair of the Raoul Centre for Human Rights, Emeritus Professor of Law at McGill University, and former Minister of Justice and Attorney General of Canada
  • Halyna Coynash, Kharkiv Human Rights Group
  • Hon Michael Danby MP, Seven term MP, former Parliamentary Secretary & past Chao Australian Parliament Foreign Affairs & Defence Committee
  • Michael Danielsen, Taiwan Corner
  • David A. Dayton, Utah Valley University
  • Axel Dessein, King’s College London
  • Horst Fabian, Independent researcher and Europe – China civil society Ambassador
  • Willy Fautré, Human Rights Without Frontiers
  • Antonia Finnane, University of Melbourne
  • Isaac Stone Fish, Senior Fellow, Asia Society
  • Anna Fotyga, European Parliament
  • Andrew Foxall, Henry Jackson Society
  • Vanessa Frangville, Université Libre de Bruxelles
  • Aaron L. Friedberg, Princeton University
  • Andreas Fulda, University of Nottingham, School of Politics and International Relations
  • Daniel Garrett, Securing Tianxia
  • Angela Gui, University of Cambridge
  • Martin Hála, Sinopsis and Charles University
  • Clive Hamilton, Charles Sturt University, Canberra
  • Dan Harris, Harris Bricken
  • Laura Harth, Global Committee for the Rule of Law “Marco Pannella”
  • John Hemmings, Henry Jackson Society
  • Frank Herschel Finch III, University of New Haven
  • Michael Hsiao, Academia Sinica
  • Massimo Introvigne, Sociologist, editor in chief of Bitter Winter
  • Dolkun Isa, World Uyghur Congress
  • Jakub Janda, Director, European Values Center for Security Policy, Prague, Czech Republic
  • Filip Jirouš, Sinopsis
  • Rasa Juknevičienė, European Parliament
  • Thierry Kellner, Université libre de Bruxelles
  • Tinatin Khidasheli, Civic IDEA, Former Minister of Defence, Georgia
  • Tamar Kintsurashvili, Media Development Foundation
  • Ondřej Klimeš, Researcher, Czech Academy of Sciences
  • Marcus Kolga, Macdonald-Laurier Institute
  • Marko Kovic, Independent researcher and writer in Zurich, Switzerland
  • Andrius Kubilius, European Parliament
  • Gabrielius Landsbergis, Chairman of the Homeland Union-Lithuanian Christian Democrats
  • Gregory Lee, University of Lyon
  • Anastasia Lin, Macdonald-Laurier Institute
  • Petra Lindberg, SHRIC -Supporting Human Rights In China
  • Jan Lipavský MP, House of Commons, Czech Republic
  • Dimon Liu, Independent human rights activist
  • Olga Lomová, Charles University
  • Edward Lucas, Author, journalist, and senior vice-president, Center for European Policy Analysis
  • Nicola Macbean, The Rights Practice
  • Rahima Mahmut, Uyghur Human Rights Activiest, U.K. Project Director, World Uyghur Congress
  • Paul Maidowski, Fletcher School alumn
  • Jonathan Manthorpe, International Affairs Commentator and author of “Claws of the Panda: Beijing’s Campaign of Influence and Intimidation in Canada” and “Forbidden Nation: A History of Taiwan.”
  • Stewart McDonald MP, House of Commons, United Kingdom
  • John Minford, Emeritus Professor of Chinese Studies, Australian National University
  • David Missal, Sinologist and Freelance Journalist
  • Juraj Mesík, Slovak Foreign Policy Association
  • Giorgi Moldini, Stratcom Georgia
  • Enrique Miguel Sanchez Motos, Senior Civil Servant. President of Association for the Defense of Freedom of Conscience
  • John MacKenzie Nicolson, House of Commons, United Kingdom
  • Manyan Ng, International Society for Human Rights
  • Valérie Niquet, China and Asia specialist
  • Mareike Ohlberg, Analyst, Mercator Institute for China Studies
  • Kyle Olbert, Citizens of the American Republic
  • Jojje Olsson, Swedish journalist
  • Shaun O’Dwyer, Faculty of Languages and Cultures, Kyushu University
  • Katarzyna Pejda, The John Paul II Catholic University of Lublin, Poland
  • Andrew J Phelan, Med Tech Entrepreneur
  • Johnathan Pollock, Editor, 9DashLine
  • Patrick Poon, PhD researcher, Université Jean Moulin (Lyon III)
  • Katerina Prochazkova, Sinopsis
  • Luke de Pulford, Coalition for Genocide Response
  • Jafer Qureshi, Consultant Psychiatrist – Fellow Of the Royal College of Psychiatry. Philanthropist
  • Aaron Rhodes, President, Forum for Religious Freedom Europe
  • Pablo Rodríguez-Merino, University of Warwick
  • Benedict Rogers, Deputy Chair of Conservative Party Human Rights Commission & Chair of Hong Kong Watch
  • Bert-Jan Ruissen, Member of the European Parliament
  • Giulio Terzi di Sant’Agata, President of the “Global Committee for the Rule of Law- Marco Pannella”
  • Łukasz Sarek, Researcher, Asia Explained
  • Katarzyna Sarek, Jagiellonian University, Poland
  • Puma Shen, National Taipei University
  • Radosław Sikorski, European Parliament
  • Duncan Stirling, Former participant; EU-China Managers Exchange and Training Programme. Former foreign expert; China Central Television
  • Mark Stokes, The Project 2049 Institute
  • May-Britt U. Stumbaum, Freie Universität Berlin
  • Didi Kirsten Tatlow, Sinopsis
  • Thierry Valle, President, Coordination des Associations et des Particuliers pour la Liberté de Conscience
  • Jeffrey Wasserstrom, University of California, Irvine
  • Michael B. Yahuda, Professor Emeritus, London School of Economics; Visiting Scholar, George Washington University
  • Jianli Yang, Founder and President of Citizen Power Initiatives for China
  • Solomon Yue, CEO of Republicans Overseas & Republican National Committeeman for Oregon
  • Anna Zádrapová, Sinopsis
  • Michal Zelcer-Lavid, Bar-Ilan University
  • Adrian Zenz, Senior fellow in China Studies, Victims of Communism Memorial Foundation
  • Peter Zoehrer, FOREF Europe